Wildlife enthusiasts generally know a lot about our closest cousins in the natural world, chimpanzees. But often they know less about a primate that is equally close and just as fascinating — the bonobo, “the forgotten ape."
The story of mountain gorillas in recent history is one of violence and turmoil, but also hope and fragile recovery. Through poaching, civil war and genocide, large-scale habitat loss, disease, and hunting for the pet trade, the mountain gorilla hung on. Then, with the help of conservationists and enlightened governments, the gorillas did better than that. Where they numbered perhaps 600 at their lowest point in the 1980s, today they are tipping past 1,000. “Kwita Izina” — an annual celebration in which Rwanda’s newest baby gorillas are named — last year named 19 new babies and the year before that, 22.
Compared to Africa’s other great apes, the bonobo has been relatively less studied. Its geographic range stretches 500,000 square kilometers across the Democratic Republic of Congo’s remotest tropical forests — difficult to reach areas with a history of regional political unrest. As such, research on bonobo ecological preferences, habitat use, and distribution has been mostly limited to small areas accessible by foot. However, with increased pressure from hunting and habitat degradation facing this endangered great ape, further study has become increasingly critical.
Because we love our supporters, and we know our supporters love Africa's unique wildlife, we wanted to give you a special treat this Valentine's Day.
It is not common for African primatologists and conservationists to mix, much less in a small town in Japan. But earlier this December, 16 African students representing 11 different countries came to Inuyama, Japan, to do just that. The odd group convened under the auspices of the African Primatological Consortium.